West of Sydney is one of Australia’s most magical destinations – the Blue Mountains. The area’s distinctive hue comes from the oils of the eucalyptus trees that pack the slopes of its mountain ranges. Placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2000, the Blue Mountains are also one of the most unspoiled highland regions in Australia with history and culture dating back thousands of years.
As one of the most popular and sought-after destinations for Sydneysiders, as well as for visitors from all over Australia and the rest of the world, the Blue Mountains offers an impressive selection of holiday accommodation, including villas, apartments and self-contained accommodation.
The indigenous Gundungurra people have inhabited the Blue Mountains for several millennia and while the mountain range is certainly not the highest on the continent, the dense forests and steep cliffs proved a major obstacle for the European explorers who first attempted to cross the Blue Mountains. The roads and railtracks eventually laid in the 19th century are the same ones now traversed by residents and visitors to this historic region.
While the Blue Mountains are a favourite weekend and summer destination and so can offer a good selection of holiday rentals, there has been little major development, allowing the area to retain its mystique. That mystique is epitomised by its very name – the atmosphere is filled with tiny droplets of oil from the millions of eucalyptus trees. When they combine with dust particles and water vapour, they cause a scattering of short-wave length rays of light that are blue in colour.
The most spectacular landmark in the Blue Mountains is the Three Sisters at Echo Point, a trio of unusual rock formations that each tower some 3000ft high. The legend surrounding the Three Sisters dates from the Aboriginal Dreamtime and while the story varies, the importance of this formation to the indigenous people cannot be underestimated. If you visit the landmark in the evening, enjoy the floodlighting which spectacularly basks the Three Sisters in light against the black of the night sky.
There is a wonderful selection of walking trails with one of the favourites via the Giant Stairway, close to Echo Point, with a ride on the Scenic Railway to finish off. Mountain biking, off-roading in a 4WD, rock climbing and canyoning are among the many other outdoor activities that are available for those looking for more than a simple stroll while in the Blue Mountains.
And if walking is a little too dull, try a Segway tour or go horse riding across an ancient landscape. Take a bushwalk eco tour that will give you an insight into the history of this incredible region while helping to preserve it for future generations.
Scenic World is another excellent attraction. Its railway travels down the steepest railway incline in the world; climb on board the steepest aerial cable car in Australia to see the rainforest of the Jamison Valley; or if you’re feeling incredible brave, try the world’s first glass-bottomed cable car that travels 300m above the ground.
Perhaps a little pampering is more your style and fortunately the Blue Mountains region features several luxury spa resorts – well worth spending a day away from your holiday accommodation for some world-class pampering.Reaching the heights
The climate in the Blue Mountains varies widely because of the elevation. Expect temperatures to be as much as 10°C colder than on the coast in daytime with the mercury dropping even further at night. In summer, the average daily temperature is around 22°C but remember there will be occasions when it can reach into the 30s. Misty days in the mountains are frequent. Winter temperatures are usually around 10°C with occasional snowfalls. If you’re visiting in winter, look for holiday rentals with an open fire where you can warm up nicely at the end of a long day’s sightseeing or walking.
UK holidaymakers wanting to visit the Blue Mountains are likely to arrive at Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport. There are regular train and bus services from the centre of Sydney to the main towns in the Blue Mountains such as Parramatta, Mount Victoria and Lithgow. Car rental will make travelling more convenient and can be arranged when you’re choosing your self-contained holiday accommodation. The Blue Mountains are around 60 miles west of Sydney.